New Wave

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


The French cinematic New Wave (nouvelle vague) movement in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, while enthusiastic for film culture and American film especially, rejected the traditional heavy cameras, large tech crews, and intense lighting. New Wave filmmakers sought to capture the spontaneity of the moment with the mobility and agility of the hand-held camera. They opted for fast film stock so that they could shoot with the available natural lighting. Jean-Luc Godard and Fran├žois Truffaut increased realism by having actors improvising on camera, making up dialogue while the scene was photographed. These critics-turned-directors

tended to avoid theoretical dogmatism. They believed that technique was meaningful only in terms of subject matter. In fact, it was the New Wave that popularized the idea that what a movie says is inextricably bound up with how it’s said. Furthermore, editing styles ought to be determined not by fashion, the limitations of technology, or dogmatic pronouncements, but by the essence of the subject matter itself. (Giannetti 153)

Particular triumphs in New Wave include Godard’s Breathless (France, 1959), with cinematography by Coutard, and Truffaut’s Doinel series, a semiautobiographical series of movies tracing the adventures of a slightly neurotic hero, Antoine Doinel, from The 400 Blows (1959) through Love at Twenty (1962), Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970), and Love on the Run (1979).

Works Consulted

Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.